There are fears over the future of Lake Turkana after Unesco rejected proposals to list the lake as a World Heritage Site. The listing would have given Lake Turkana the prominence it desperately needs to survive the onslaught of developments threatening its survival mainly from Ethiopia. Unesco's decision, made last week, sparked outrage from activists across the world who feel the global body is being "unreasonable". "It is a sad day for Lake Turkana and our people," said said Ikal Angelei, an activist and founder of the Friends of Lake Turkana, who have been fighting to save the lake.
Lake Turkana will now miss part of Sh340 million (US$4 million) that Unesco provides every year to support the most threatened sites. The lake had been proposed for the list together with three other threatened sites by Geneva-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The main threat to the lake is the Gibe 3 dam being constructed on the Omo River, the main source of Lake Turkana water.
Researchers say the dam will result in a steep reduction of the water level, increase salinity and lead to a decline in fish and wildlife stock in the world's largest desert lake. IUCN and local activists say this will affect local communities who depend on the lake for their livelihoods. Lake Turkana is also facing pressure from poaching and livestock grazing and other other large developments in northern Kenya.
Angelei won the 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize for Africa earlier this year in recognition of her efforts to save the lake. The Friends of Lake Turkana have been campaigning against Gibe 3 Dam and have managed to stop the African Development Bank from funding the dam in spite of strong lobbying from Ethiopia. IUCN had recommended that Lake Turkana National Park, Dja Faunal Reserve in Cameroon, Virgin Komi Forests in Russia, and Pitons Management Area in Saint Lucia be added to the List of World Heritage in Danger. All the four recommendations were rejected last week.